The WeLead Reader - December 8, 2018

Good Saturday morning and welcome to another edition of the WeLead Reader - your place for all the latest news about women in politics.  As promised last week, we have full results and analysis of our She Votes/She Leads new poll of 2018 female voters conducted by the great team at Benenson Strategy Group, led by their SVP Katie Connolly.  We wanted to find out more about WHY women voted, WHAT they are now expecting of their leaders and HOW they feel about the record-breaking number of women elected to Congress.  We would love your feedback on the results.

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Betsy Fischer Martin
Executive Director

She Votes. She Leads. Polling Results.

Key findings from our Women & Politics Institute/Benenson Strategy Group poll of women midterm voters conducted November 15-20, 2018. 

She Votes: The poll confirms that Trump loomed large over the midterms - with 60 percent of female voters - including nearly two-thirds of Independent women - viewing the president unfavorably.  Even among Republican women, 37 percent said they don't like him even though they agree with him on the issues.  Trump's rhetoric - particularly toward women - appears to be a major point of concern.  More than three-quarters of female voters reported being troubled by either his tone or policies, and half are troubled by both. Among white suburban voters, a swing group critical to numerous Democratic House victories in November, 71 percent were concerned with how he speaks about women.  The president, however, was not the only key factor in their vote.  When asked what mattered most to them when voting for Congress, 65 percent said that the merits of the individual candidate were more important to them than simply electing someone to be a check on Trump.

Looking at individual issues, Republican women cited immigration and the economy as their top two motivators at the polls this fall.  While among Democratic women, health care and opposition to President Trump were the most significant motivators. 

She Leads: The poll also explored women's thoughts about the increase in female representation in politics and attitudes about key leadership qualities.  Female voters overwhelmingly believe that women, more than their male counterparts, possess leadership qualities that Washington sorely needs.  This includes important qualities such as "getting things done," solving problems," building a better future," and "fighting for ordinary Americans."

Solid majorities of women are optimistic about the record number of women elected to office: 72 percent of women voters find the increase in female representation "exciting" and 66 percent say it's a "good thing."  Looking ahead to the next Congress, they anticipate that women politicians will make more progress than their male counterparts on the issues they care about most, such as health care, prescription drug costs, protecting Social Security and Medicare, and promoting civility in our politics.

Read More:

Full Press Release:  She Votes. She Leads. New Poll Reveals What Mattered to Women in the 2018 Midterms.

Analysis:  Full report and slides

The Data:  Top-line Survey Results


Women on the Run

Wake up Dudes:  Retiring Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) sounds a warning bell to members of her own partying, saying that the GOP will be the "grandparents" party if it doesn't bring in women. The Hill And Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) announced that she would use her PAC to help women candidates in Republican primaries.  Washington Post

Who are You Wearing?: Anna North writes in Vox that "ever since women entered national politics, they've been judged on their clothes." Why the obsession with appearance and what female politicians are wearing?  A look back at this issue pegged to recent debate over the Eddie Scarry tweet about Rep-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  Vox

The ‘Badasses’ Pt. 2: Abigail Spanberger is one of the five ‘badasses’—newly-elected women with military or national security backgrounds—who could serve as a “Trump antidote” in the new Congress.  Reuters

A Woman’s Place is in the House: The “seismic shift” of 35 new congresswomen is a cause for hope and joy after two years of the Trump presidency, writes Jill Filipovic. While some level of disappointment is inevitable as the reality of politics sets in, the diverse, newly elected class is still cause for celebration. This political moment “marks not the conclusion of a struggle, but one signpost in a longer journey toward a truly equitable nation.” Elle

She Leads

Four Committees, Four Women: In yet another first, four Democratic women will lead the campaign committees in charge of House, Senate, gubernatorial, and state legislative races. Illinois Rep. Cheri Bustos will head the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, while Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo will chair the Democratic Governors Association. Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto will lead the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Oregon state House Speaker Tina Kotek was reelected chair of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.  The Washington Post  and  Axios

Lee Leads: Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), lost her bid for Democratic Caucus Chair, but she is still going to be part of the Democratic leadership in the new Congress. Nancy Pelosi created a third co-chair position on the House Steering and Policy Committee and named Lee to fill the spot. While the new position won’t be as visible as Caucus Chair, it’s not a mere consolation prize: Lee, who is beloved in progressive circles, will “have the power to influence who will shape House Democrats’ agenda and investigations.” Vox

Republican Women Lead, Too: Parker Poling, the top aide to Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), has been named the next executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Poling, who has worked in a variety of positions on the Hill since 2003, has been praised on both sides of the aisle for her leadership ability. Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), who will serve as the NRCC’s chairman, called her “sharp, experienced, hardworking, and selfless.” POLITICO

They Run the World: Forbes released its annual list of “Women Who Rule the World,” which recognizes influential women in politics and policy worldwide.  The top three spots went to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May, and Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund. Americans on the list include the three women on the US Supreme Court—collectively listed as #4—and First Daughter Ivanka Trump at #6. Forbes

Not Invited: It's the “Year of the Woman,” and yet female political operatives are feeling excluded from the party. The Texas Tribune’s Abby Livingston, writing POLITICO Magazine’s cover story, conducted 50 interviews and found that women in politics are frequently relegated to functional support roles in fundraising or communications. They are rarely tapped for top jobs, and they are increasingly angry about it. One interviewee said, “they won’t let us in on the sexy part of politics,” and many women describe an uphill battle to be taken seriously. The problem crosses party lines: Democratic women are enraged at the hypocrisy of their “progressive” party, while Republican women often feel hopeless about the state of theirs. POLITICO Magazine

Communicating Kindness: Republican Capitol Hill veteran Antonia Ferrier left her post as communications advisor to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. She is joining Definers Public Affairs as a partner.  Looking back on her long career on the Hill, Ferrier advises other staffers “don’t sweat the small stuff” and, most importantly, “be kind.” Roll Call

Leaning out of ‘Leaning In’: Former First Lady Michelle Obama made waves when she said, during a speech in Brooklyn on December 1, that the ‘lean in’ philosophy popularized by Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg “doesn’t work all the time.” Obama’s statement resonated with many women, especially women of color, who felt that Sandberg’s advice only applied to the privileged and wealthy and did not reflect the reality of ordinary women’s lives.  The Washington Post

From Nikki to Nauert?: President Trump confirmed he will appoint Heather Nauert to replace Nikki Haley as Ambassador to the UN after Haley’s departure at the end of the year. After spending fifteen years as a Fox News host and correspondent, Nauert joined the State Department in April 2017 as its top spokesperson. From March to October 2018, she also served as the acting under-secretary for public affairs and public diplomacy.  Vox

She Votes

Republicans Have a Woman Problem: In her latest column for USA Today Commentary Editor Jill Lawrence asks "can Republicans fix their woman problem?"  Her conclusion: "only if they change practically everything." USA Today

Capito Knows: Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) says the Republican Party is “falling way short” when it comes to recruiting and electing women. She said the handful of Republican women in Congress are “well aware” of the problem and are “focusing on it.” Capito hopes that change is on the horizon, because she believes that women are good at collaborating across the aisle.  POLITICO

Madame President?

DNA Debacle: The New York Times looks at the fallout from Sen Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) much-criticized decision in October to release the results of her DNA test in an effort to quiet President Trump’s attacks over her claims of Native American ancestry.  The move was not well received by prominent tribal leaders, and concerns have lingered that Warren damaged her presidential chances for 2020. When asked if she regretted taking the test, Warren said “I put it out there. It’s on the internet for anybody to see. People can make of it what they will. I’m going to continue fighting on the issues that brought me to Washington.” Warren allies and advisors, though, say she will have to confront the issue again—possibly issuing a statement of apology—if she announces a presidential campaign, as is expected in the coming weeks.  More on her efforts to staff up from The Washington Post. And this editorial from her hometown paper, The Boston Globe, suggesting she rethink a potential a run, "Warren missed her moment in 2016, and there’s reason to be skeptical of her prospective candidacy in 2020."

Gillibrand’s Hesitation: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has been hesitant when asked if she will run for president in 2020, “but she has made clear, through her actions and her platform, that she believes it's important to combat the president's agenda, as well as his policies.” Uncharacteristically low spending on her 2018 Senate reelection campaign could indicate she is padding her coffers for a 2020 run. Bustle

Back in Iowa: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) made a return trip to Iowa - this time to speak to the annual convention of the Iowa Farmers Union.  Asked whether her frequent visits to the "first in the nation" caucus state mean she'll make a run for the White House in 2020, she said, "obviously people have been talking to me about this, but I don't have any announcements to make today." MPR News

It’s About to Get Ugly: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA)  expects the 2020 election to be as “ugly,” if not more so, than the 2016 election. With the possibility of big name contenders like Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, a Harris White House could face serious competition. Of the difficulties of political change, Harris said, “When you break things, it is painful. And you get cut. And you bleed.” It is unclear if Harris, the popular junior senator from California, will run in 2020. Harris said she will announce her formal and final decision after a discussion with her family over the holidays.Essence

Research Hub

She Stats: The December AEI Political Report, called “The Women’s Issue,” published results from a compilation of polls centered around women and politics. The report examines views about “women in Congress, women’s views of Trump, female voters’ attitudes and demography, and views on prominent women including Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Melania Trump, and Michelle Obama.”  AEI Political Report

Project Relaunch: A survey and series of focus groups by Lake Research Partners for the Barbara Lee Family Foundation looked at “what’s next” for women candidates after a losing an election.  The study “shows that voters are incredibly open to the idea of a woman candidate relaunching herself as a public figure and running for office again.”  Key findings include: an election loss isn’t the end of the road, how a woman speaks about her loss is noticed, and how the loss is handled makes a difference.  Lee said, “Our new research confirms my long-held belief that women can rebound successfully after a defeat. It’s important for women candidates to know that voters say they will not penalize women who lose an election."Barbara Lee Family Foundation

In Case You Missed It

Up and Coming: Business Insider profiles eight young women who are “rising stars” in government, at the national, state, and local levels. A few are household names, but others have flown under the radar so far. Business Insider

Legendary Ladies: Viola Davis will play Shirley Chisholm, America’s first black woman elected to Congress in the upcoming film The Fighting Shirley Chisholm. Refinery 29

Seasoned Freshman: A profile of former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala as she prepares to take on the new role of House freshman.  Miami Herald

Not My Senator: Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith is the first woman from Mississippi to be elected to the Senate, but black women in the state are not celebrating her win. Jackson Free Press

She Said...

“I encourage our [Republican] party leaders to be more aggressive in seeking out and helping younger candidates, female candidates and candidates of color.  We have to step up our game or risk having the nation look upon us as the political party of the grandparents... Wake up, dudes."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
The Hill Newspaper
December 6, 2018